Whatever the intricacies surrounding Jobs time away from Apple, it cannot be denied he has transformed the company during his second tenure. PowerBooks and Newtons have given way to MacBooks and iPads. iPods slaughtered the once dominant Sony Walkman. The NeXT based Mac OS X platform redefined the computer operating system, the iPhone revolutionised the mobile phone sector and the App Store has transformed the distribution and purchase of software.
In May 2010 Apple was valued at $222bn, surpassing Microsoft to become the world's largest technology company. It has since passed $300bn. Every step of the way Jobs' micromanagement has seen him oversee every design, sign-off every development. More than any other global corporate Apple's products are the embodiment of Jobs' vision and personal beliefs, their unbending unity both their biggest strength and greatest weakness. Having been ousted before Jobs return has seen him carve out an all encompassing, unshakeable role as the heart of Apple. It was a master plan with just one flaw: it didn't allow for the heart to get sick.
During Jobs battle with Islet cell carcinoma in 2004 Apple – while financially successful – had a largely unremarkable year. It introduced the iPod Mini only to can it in 2005, it updated iLife and introduced GarageBand, but nothing blew us away. During Jobs second absence in 2009 Apple again enjoyed great financial success, but putting a camera on the iPod nano (only to remove it one year later), largely ignoring the iPod touch and putting a faster chipset into the iPhone 3G to create the iPhone 3GS was once more treading water creatively. With the second generation iPad and an apparently radically overhauled iPhone 5 set to be unveiled in 2011 the same is unlikely to be said of Jobs' third absence, though the legwork has surely been done on these products already. It is 2012 which has us fearful.
All of which isn't to say Jobs' carefully assembled board of executives cannot do a fine job of running Apple. During the six months they were in charge during 2009 Apple stock leapt from $82.33 per share to $163.39, but the market was less concerned. "I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June," Jobs had said definitively, concluding: "I look forward to seeing all of you this summer." There were no such assurances this time, his letter ending: "I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy."
Yes Apple execs can run Apple just fine, but how can a team hope to replicate one man's vision. How can they hope to innovate, to create products that – love or loathe Apple – typically serve to inspire the rest of the technology sector? Of course this all needs to be put in context. However large your love of gadgetry some things are more important than tech and it just goes to show no matter what you achieve in this life, no matter how much money lies in your bank account there is nothing more important than your health…